February is National Heart Health Awareness month.
According to the Center of Disease Control, cardiovascular diseases (CVD’s) including heart attacks, stroke, and heart failure, is the leading cause of death in the U.S. High blood pressure is the leading risk factor followed by high cholesterol, decreased fruit and vegetable intake, physical inactivity and high sodium intake. Lucky enough most are preventable risk factors that can be modified through lifestyle changes. Our recent article on Heart Healthy Eating gives some great practical guidance on where to start.
Consuming foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, potassium, fiber and healthy mono and polyunsaturated fats can help lower bad (LDL) cholesterol and blood pressure, helping to prevent heart disease.
Don’t just wear red this February, change your diet and add these 10 heart healthy foods to your next meal!
1. Dark Leafy Greens: Spinach, Swiss Chard or Kale
These green veggies lead the way with their high potassium, magnesium and fiber content. Use in a Green Smoothie, add to salads, stir fry’s, omelets/frittatas, or bake in the oven with a heart healthy fish like salmon or tuna.
2. Wild Fish: Salmon and Tuna
Salmon and Tuna are great sources of healthy omega 3 fatty acids. Add a 4-6 oz. serving to salad or pair with green leafy veggies for dinner.
3. Sweet Potatoes
These seasonal root veggies provide a key source of heart healthy potassium, fiber, and beta-carotenes. Known for its bright orange color and slightly sweet taste, sweet potatoes are great roasted with fresh herbs. Make a large batch using this Roasted Veggie Recipe as a side dish, a post-workout snack, or for lunchtime leftovers.
This pantry staple is high in fiber, potassium and omega-3s and may help lower bad cholesterol. Choose steel cut oats over instant varieties and add berries for a natural sweetness to your morning breakfast.
Nuts have many heart healthy benefits as a recent post on Nut Nutrition goes into greater detail. Almonds and walnuts specifically are great sources of healthy mono and polyunsaturated fats. Add Omega-3 Crunch Granola to your morning breakfast, use toasted varieties over a spinach salad, or take these adorable Granola Hearts for an afternoon snack.
Avocado’s contain the heart healthy monounsaturated fats to help lower total cholesterol and bad (LDL) cholesterol. Make a creamy Berry-Avocado Smoothie or serve with beta-carotene rich carrots and veggies with Avocado Salsa for parties.
7. Flax Seed
This plant-based protein is filled with fiber and healthy fats. Using just a sprinkle of 2 Tablespoons per serving can go a long way for your heart. Add to your morning oats or when baking these breakfast Banana Blueberry Muffins.
Blueberries, Raspberries, Strawberries are full of anti-inflammatory phytonutrients great for vascular health. Have as a Berry Smoothie, blend frozen into a dessert sorbet, or freeze into ice cube trays for an antioxidant-rich drink garnish.
Lentils, chickpeas, black beans and kidney beans are filled with fiber and omega 3s and can be added in multiple ways to protect your heart. Have in a Spicy Soup or Meatless Monday Chili for dinner, add a tri-colored Bean Salad for lunch, and snack on delicious Hummus that can be brought to your next party.
10. Olive Oil
Rich in heart healthy monounsaturated fats, use your olive oil in salad dressings like this Shallot Poppy Seed Dressing or when lightly sautéing fresh veggies.